Friday, July 20, 2007

Mimi and Pynchon's Bed and Breakfast

Sometimes, I just don't know: don't know what the right answer is, what the right course of action is, what the right idea is. Don't know how to choose, or how to react. These moments are highly disconcerting to me. It is a quirk of my personality that I am generally quick to decision, and that I have the verbal dexterity to rationalize my decision at great length and persuasively. Generally, I'm loathe to say, I don't know or I'm not sure or I can't decide.

Tonight, I'm going to weigh in again on the great daycare question, and I'm going to start by saying those words that scare me most: I don't know. I'm not sure. I've made a decision, but sometimes I question it. But I'm mostly going to tell you about the stuff that's made me sad about my decision this week. It doesn't mean, I think, that my decision--our decision, because Pynchon is obviously a stakeholder here, too--was the wrong one, or that I want to change. I just think there might be value in saying that I don't think any choice about how to care for young children is an unalloyed good. Even the ray of sunshine is only visible in its refraction off airborne dirt, right? I guess this is a post about the airborne dirt.

In the immortal words: you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have, the facts of life.

So here's the thing. I miss Ms. Munchkin. Her dad misses her too. We've hardly seen her all week, and much of time we do have together is of the supper-to-bedtime meltdown-management variety. From our calculations, we've been seeing her about three or so hours a day, sometimes less, and it just doesn't feel like enough.

What's going on? Well, Munchkin goes to daycare on campus where I work, and while she loves it and the workers and the other babies and the snacks and the toys and the crafts, this week, she's been pretty much on nap strike. I guess she's having too much fun. Or some of the other babies are on different schedules and wake her up prematurely. Whatever. While she has two naps a day at home on the weekend, each of about an hour and a half duration, at daycare she hit a new low on Monday of 20 minutes. All day. What this results in is a very tired and cranky baby who loads up on sleep at home.

Wednesday, for example, when I went to pick her up, she was happily playing with a puzzle, but she burst into tears when she saw me, because she was just so tired. She fell asleep in her carseat before we had even left the parking lot, and I sat in our driveway with her for forty minutes, just hoping that a little nap would mean that supper would pass with no meltdowns, and that she might be a little more cheerful for play time and bath time. She woke up at 5:40pm, and was in bed for the night an hour later, conked out. This is the pattern of the week: in bed really really early, and then not waking up until sometime between 7:20 and 7:40 the next morning. And we leave for the day at 8:40, she jumping excitedly into my arms when I ask, "Is it time to go to daycare?"

She needs the sleep: she's obviously exhausted, and I want her to be well-rested for the next day. I don't like to rush her in the morning, but I can only write academic prose in the early in the day before I get to feeling overwhelmed, and I like to be at it much earlier but can push it to 9:30. I try to compensate by going earlier in the afternoon to pick her up--but yesterday when I did this, she had just gone down for a nap, so I would up sitting around the daycare until closing time, at which point I woke her up, and she cried from exhaustion. So much for a little extra quality time. She went to bed at 6:45 last night, and slept right through until 7:20 this morning.

I can't believe I'm complaining about how long she's sleeping--I remember well enough my despair during her infancy that she wasn't sleeping enough, and that I was just so desperate for a little alone time. Well. Now Pynchon and I feel like we're running a bed and breakfast, because this week at least, that's pretty much all we do: we're a crib and cracker operation.

So I feel bad about daycare this week. It's a great place for her and she's safe and well cared for, yada yada yada. But they get to see her all day, and send her home an exhausted, cranky, overwhelmed wreck, and I don't get to do much but feed her, clean her, and put her to bed before bringing her back.

Not all weeks are like this. When she naps well at daycare, she stays up a little later at home, and more happily. She wakes a little earlier in the morning, and we can all take it a bit slower as a result. That's when I feel great about my decision. But during weeks like this, where I see so little of her it hurts me, I feel terrible, and I question myself as a mother, and I question my decisions about child care.

I just wanted to put that out there, to make myself vulnerable--I guess to add a bit more humanity to my own decision and its ramifications. I really believe in early childhood education by trained and well-paid workers with benefits and government pensions. I wanted a government-regulated setting for Munchkin's care, healthy food and no TV and lots of outdoor time on safe equipment. I investigated and I visited. I paid and I pay. It was my choice, and while it usually feels right to me, that's not to say that there's no downside. And I just wanted to acknowledge that.

I miss my Munchkin.


Omaha Mama said...

Oh Mimi. I'm all teary. Seriously. I'll never forget when Brenna gave up her morning nap at daycare around 9 mo. She was in a home daycare at that time, but pretty much the same routine as the center we use now. I would cry to hubs at night, I missed my baby. I would rock her to sleep so I could at least hold her while she slept. She was so tired. And this was just after we had stopped nursing, so that was a fresh wound too. Add to it my questioning of being a working mom. What I can tell you is this, it will pass. Relish your weekend, it is coming TOMORROW! Spend every minute taking her in. You will be ready to do it all again next week. Don't beat yourself up, because you need to take care of yourself too. But I know just what you mean. Wow. It's a tough choice, but in a few years will be a faded memory. You've brought it all back to me tonight (Brenna will be FOUR tomorrow) but it really seemed so hurtful at the time, I thought I just couldn't do it.

That's enough rambling - I just want you to know that when you said you miss your baby I totally get it. I mourned many an evening when my baby needed to go to bed early. Wow - it will pass by so quickly!

bubandpie said...

Is there any way you could go to a four-day week? 'Cause I've done both and I find it makes a huge difference to me to have that extra day.

The trouble with full-time work at this age is not the amount of time but WHEN that time takes place - during the miserable, cranky, busy, wrangling parts of the day. There was a period of time when both my kids would just take turns screaming from the time I picked them up until supper - and then they would have a brief period of angelic calm before it was time for bed.

Beck said...

This post made me burst into tears.
That's all.

slouching mom said...

Man. I'm sorry.

Y'know, though, I would guess that as time goes on she will learn to nap like a champ there, and then things will go much better at home, you'll get to see her happy self again, etc.

Usually kids end up napping better in daycare than they do at home.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Jenifer said...

I want to hug you both! It is hard and Bub & Pie is right about the 4 day week. I never worked a 5 day week after either girl. After my mat leave (8 months for Papoosie Girl) I worked a 3 day week which after a few months proved impossible so I went to a 4 day week and settled in comfortably.

I did the same after my mat leave with Rosebud and rather than "make" up the hours I took a pay cut. I was only the second person in my company to do it.

It allowed me the mental space to say, ok today all I got was a quick dinner and bath, but come Friday I have all day. And even if I used Friday to clean or do errands we did them together. It really made a difference.

I would tally the hours too and the numbers away from me and home scared me. I could not handle it any other way.

crazymumma said...

aw. you are such a good mom, such a good person to be so sensitive to this.

There is a downside to any decision in parenting. She is very very young, and she will grow out of her need for those naps and you will have more of her.

ps. any options? Like going for a lunch break with her or anything?

cinnamon gurl said...

Swee'pea started on one nap a day when he started daycare, and there was quite a lot of adjustment time with the cranky monster at the end of the day. But I think now he's adjusted and we still have cranky evenings but it's not every evening. Hang in there...

The thing is there are pluses and minuses to absolutely every decision a parent can make... that's what makes it so hard.

Christine said...

this theme has been running through so many blogs lately.

i can tell that you love the Munchkin so much. we all question our decisions about our kids and that is ok. this is all ok. you are a good mom--ibet Munchkin would agree.

kittenpie said...

You're right, nothing's perfect all the time. Is it a relatively new thing, where maybe she just hasn't settled into the daycare's routine of napping yet? We found out when the daycare's nap time is and try to keep our routine at home the same on weekends, too, which has helped for us. Hope you both feel more settled soon.

Em said...

oh it is so tough isn't it. I started with s in full time care... then dropped to four days and it made a big difference. with w i went the other way... 2 then 3 then 4 days... and now p is in 2 days and i won't increase (i can do all my work in those two days thank goodness). i feel for you... it isn't easy. but i will say that over the years i've come to regard daycare and myself as a team working together "to get the job done" so to speak... but maybe it is easier to feel that way when it isn't full time care?

Oh, The Joys said...

Of course you miss her and worry. Of course you do. Of course. Yes.

Mad Hatter said...

Hey. I've been meaning to comment on this since I saw it Friday night. I've been thinking about your situation off and on all weekend. It is hard, that missing.

The trouble with the working mom issue, though, is that after mat leave expires, workplaces, for the most part, tend to be very inflexible. If you want to be Professor Mimi in 5 years when Muchkin is in school, then you MUST be professor Mimi now. It's frustrating how academia (and, well, all the profressions really) have this treadmill mentality built in. Job sharing? NOPE. Extending the path to tenure by a couple of years? NOPE.

I realize that I am extremely lucky to be an academic librarian AND to work half time. The price I pay is that I am not in the union and my appointment is one year continuing contracts. Erg. But still, for where I am right now in my life this is great. It is not so peachy for the Mad Dad who works, as you know, ALLL THE TIME and is a big, grown-up professor just like you. We manage our Miss M time by being creative. He stays with her some mornings to make up for the fact that he can only rarely be with her in the evenings. We've structured our time to minimize childcare and to maximize our time with Miss M. This does mean that we rarely see each other and that Miss M is always wanting to do things with Mommy AND Daddy, but...

OK, I'm rambling. All I want to say is this. Do you have an afternoon or two with no classes so that you could pick Munchkin up at noon, make sure she gets a decent nap and still get lots of fun time with her in the aft as well? Can you structure your work so that you do more of the brain-dead stuff (committee prep, marking) after Muchkin is in bed in order to free up some day-time hours? Can you swing the 4 day week (between you and Pynchon) as B&P suggests?

Thinkin' 'bout you.

Bon777 said...

Anyone who parents feels at times that they might not be going the best thing for their child. Stay at home? Work? Work from home? Daycare vs. Babysitter They all have their challenges. Ultimately I believe that when our children are grown they will mostly remember how we as parents made them feel when they were with us. Did they feel loved, cared for, valued?

Bon777 said...

PS. Thanks for the comment on my blog the other day...It has been a very long week.

nomotherearth said...

I've been wanting to comment on this for a while, but I'm not sure what to say. I'm much in the same situation you are with regards to daycare, except that the Boy loves it there. But there are days when he doesn't want to go, and days when I would like to stay home with him. It's a really hard decision, and I hope I made the right one. I DO think I have made the best decision I can for right now. Don't know what the future will bring.

When we first brought the Boy to the daycare, he cried for 3 weeks straight when I dropped him off. I felt terrible. Now he's like "OK, see ya!" It did get better.

Did that help at all??

Karen said...

Just an echo voice here of many others. It is hard and I've looked for different solutions to new and emerging problems over 8 years of motherhood. A great big star of admiration to you for letting her get the sleep she needs despite your missing her and courage as you seek the balance your family needs.

Andi said...

Aw. My daughter stopped napping while at home and then was the only kid in her room at daycare that didn't nap. It makes for terrible evenings sometimes, doesn't it?

I know that no matter what we do sometimes, we feel badly. It sounds like the daycare she is in is of really high quality. I hope you take solace in the fact that she is well cared for (at daycare and at home).

Jenifer said...

Just popping by to see if this is a better week.

Take care.

ewe are here said...

Any way you could pull her out for an hour or two during the day (between your classes) and take her home to nap or have her nap in your office?

It's a hard hard decision. I've gone the other way with mine - I'm a sahm, and only have my toddler in nursery three afternoons a week - but I know I'll feel quite a bit of pain on the career front down the line. It's sad society forces us to make these kinds of decisions... all or nothing on both sides.

I hope things settle down. Hang in there.

Alpha DogMa said...

But what a loving and warm bed and breakfast it is.